Monday, March 23, 2009

Cellared in Canada: What Indiana & Tennessee wineries can teach us.

Cellared in Canada: What Indiana & Tennessee wineries can teach us.

This self espoused lover/promoter of Ontario Wine, has a day job that has him on the road frequently. On a recent trip to the US, I had the opportunity to encounter some rather interesting wineries in places one would not think to find them. One was in Tennessee (Monteagle Winery), the other in Indiana (Chateau Thomas). It was the Indiana winery (Chateau Thomas) that got me thinking afterward. While the wine in Tennessee was 100% Tennessee grapes, nothing at the Indiana winery I visited was from Indiana. In fact the winery owner was emphatic in his belief Indiana was not a good grape growing region in his opinion, even if there are wineries that do grow their own grapes, and are heralded by some of the locals. But even if one disagreed with his position, he was 100% honest and up front about his wines. The labels, espoused Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, and all the areas the grapes had been obtained in California. While he made and bottled the wine in Indiana, the grapes, were clearly from other places. No confusion, No questions about the origin. So how come we can’t do that in Canada? What’s the big secret, and all this nonsense with Cellared in Canada? Why the misrepresentation?

The issues with Cellared in Canada, are simple. For starters it’s NOT Canadian wine.

A guess based on what I can find out, is that it’s Chilean, maybe even American, and yes I’ll allow for that Europe and Australian/New Zealand could be in there. What it’s not is 100% Canadian. What we do know is that is probably as little as 30% Canadian grapes in Ontario, and 0% Canadian grapes in BC, the minimum allowed.

At least that’s what the law allows, or did…

The other issue (I did say issues, plural above) is the law allowing for this expired years ago. Technically Cellared in Canada is illegal currently. Funny how the government that would be all over your back if you did something like this, looks the other way when they are making money off it. In the US, this would be Racketeering at its finest. It’s just business as usual here in Canada.

Cellared in Canada came about back when demand for wine was outstripping the availability of grapes locally. It was to be a stopgap to allow wineries to produce enough wine until grape production caught up. That happened, but now the pendulum has swung the other way. In 2008 Forty Tons of Ontario grapes rotted, unused, but worse, Cellared in Canada gained even more shelf space at the LCBO. How did this happen and why? It’s simple. Cheap imported grapes / bad trade laws, and a government that continues to promote the Ontario Wine industry with one hand while hurting it with the other.

As a point of confusion, I will highlight one winery that is clearly confusing the consumer. Constellation Brands is a U.S. company. It owns a lot of wineries across the globe. And it has a stranglehold on the Ontario Wine industry and a great deal of clout with the government, Wine Council and LCBO. Jackson Triggs is one of their biggest. Jackson Triggs makes VQA wines. 100% Canadian content. They also market Cellared in Canada wines. All that the consumer pays attention to, is “Jackson Triggs” on the label. Hmmm, confused? I am.

Let's face it, loyalty goes out the door when it comes to money. The wineries that are promoting Cellared in Canada are doing so simply to take advantage of cheaper foreign grapes, than grapes they can get at home. It has nothing to do with the quality of the grapes. The trade laws allow for it, so why not?

So what if it drives consumers into confusion?

So what if it hurts the domestic grape growers?

So what if local wineries fail? So what if jobs are lost?

So what if global opinion of Canadian wines suffers?

People in far off places are making a profit on us, during a recession. That’s good right?

Worse is our own government passing this stuff off as Canadian wine!! They served it at past and plan to again it at the Olympics. This is a massive fraud.

What they won’t do is tell us the source of the grapes in that bottle. Laws have to change.

So what can be done? Canadian consumers need to get their voices heard. Boycott Cellared in Canada. Just don’t buy it … Any of it. Buy Italian, or French, if you have no other VQA wine you like, BUT please don’t buy Cellared in Canada.

My final point is this: If Cellared in Canada is such a great idea, how come California, France, Australia, Chile don’t do this? Guess what? They don’t allow for it in their laws. So how come Canada does? Do we lack that much self respect as a nation?

Chateau Thomas got it right. Canada has it wrong. We can learn something here. The question is will anything change?

VQA ... is the only way … any day!!

- The Ontario Wine Guy.